Field Cook John William Devitt

Jay Devitt, date unknown.
Photo courtesy of Charles Darron Smith.

Service Number: 292333

Birth and Early Life:
John W. Devitt was born in Louisiana in the year 1917. His father, Martin, died when John was only two, and he was raised in Sikes by his mother, Annie.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
“Jay” Devitt enlisted in the Marine Corps on August 17, 1940. After completing his boot training at MCRD San Diego, he was sent to Company A, Marine Barracks, Navy Yard Pearl Harbor.

Wartime Service:
Private Devitt joined the Marine detachment of the USS Astoria in January, 1941. As was customary for junior Marines at sea, his first assignment was as a messman in the galley – this in addition to his duties at his battle station. When the detachment’s cook was transferred to the Second Marine Division on April 2, Devitt found himself promoted to Assistant Cook to fill the vacancy – and suddenly in charge of feeding the entire detachment three meals a day.

Devitt was aboard the “Nasty Asty” when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and served with her through the spring and summer of 1942. He was promoted to Field Cook in April, 1942 – equivalent in rank to a sergeant – and saw action in the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, and the landings on Guadalcanal.

Date Of Loss:
John Devitt was probably in his rack when Astoria sounded General Quarters at 0149, April 9, 1942. He raced to his battle station, and soon felt the familiar rumble of the main batteries – replaced almost immediately by the shocking sound of shells hitting the ship. Astoria had been surprised, illuminated, and brought under fire by no less than four Japanese cruisers, and within half an hour the once proud ship was powerless, burning, and disarmed. She sank at shortly after noon.

Jay Devitt was one of those lost aboard the Astoria at the battle of Savo Island. His body was lost at sea.

For more information on the USS Astoria, please visit

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Annie Devitt Smith

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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